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What Does a Cybersecurity Analyst Do [2022 Career Guide]
Cybersecurity

What Does a Cyber Security Analyst Do? [2024 Career Guide]

13 minute read | June 26, 2023
Olayemi Agbeleye

Written by:
Olayemi Agbeleye

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Cybersecurity analysts are the security guards of computer information systems. They plan and implement security measures that protect companies and organizations from ever-increasing cyber threats. A cybersecurity analyst enjoys high job satisfaction and above-average advancement opportunities. This article will describe what a cybersecurity analyst is, what they do, and how to become one. Read on if you’d like to learn more about this rewarding career. 

What Is a Cybersecurity Analyst?

A cybersecurity analyst protects networks and computer systems from cyberattacks and unauthorized access by implementing best-practice security measures and monitoring tools. They prevent attacks before they happen and respond to them when they do. As a cybersecurity analyst, you are responsible for identifying and remediating vulnerabilities by performing diagnostic tests and monitoring traffic. 

A cybersecurity analyst’s job also sets protocols for good digital hygiene. By training employees in cybersecurity best practices, cybersecurity analysts can also prevent threats from inside an organization.

What Does a Cybersecurity Analyst Do?

Depending on where they work and their role, a cybersecurity analyst may perform various security-related tasks. Some cyber security analysts oversee all aspects of a company’s network and computer security, while others work in more specialized roles. As a cybersecurity analyst, your role may include: 

Investigate Security Alerts and Security Breaches 

A cybersecurity analyst is a professional responsible for safeguarding computer systems, networks, and sensitive information from security breaches and cyber attacks. They play a critical role in protecting organizations’ digital assets by implementing security measures and analyzing potential vulnerabilities. Here is an overview of what a cybersecurity analyst does:

As part of a robust cybersecurity plan, businesses use software programs to identify potential security issues and breaches. A cybersecurity analyst will investigate these alerts to determine the level of risk and how to mitigate it. A cybersecurity analyst will investigate the cause, contain the damage, and notify the appropriate parties if a security breach occurs. They must:

Monitor and Investigate Security Breaches

Cybersecurity analysts monitor computer systems and networks to detect and investigate security incidents and breaches. They use specialized security technologies and protocols to identify and mitigate threats in real-time.

Implement Security Measures

These professionals develop and implement security measures to protect computer networks and systems. They work closely with the organization’s IT department to ensure that appropriate security software, such as antivirus programs and data encryption programs, are installed and regularly updated.

Conduct Risk Analysis

Cybersecurity analysts assess the potential risks and vulnerabilities within an organization’s computer systems and networks. They conduct risk assessments to identify weaknesses and develop strategies to mitigate and minimize security risks.

Develop and Update Security Policies

They contribute to the development of security policies and procedures to establish guidelines for maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive information. They ensure compliance with security standards, frameworks and protocols to safeguard data and systems.

Perform Penetration Testing

Cybersecurity analysts may conduct penetration testing, also known as ethical hacking, to identify vulnerabilities in computer systems. By simulating real-world cyber attacks, they evaluate the effectiveness of security defenses and recommend improvements.

Provide Incident Response

In the event of a security incident or breach, cybersecurity analysts play a crucial role in responding promptly and effectively. They investigate the incident, gather evidence, and work towards mitigating the impact. They collaborate with incident response teams to restore systems and prevent future occurrences by implementing lessons learned from the incident response.

Stay Updated with Cybersecurity Field

Given the constantly evolving nature of cybersecurity threats, analysts need to stay updated with the latest trends, techniques, and security technologies. They continuously enhance their technical skills and knowledge through certifications, professional development programs, and industry events.

Collaborate with Stakeholders

Cybersecurity analysts collaborate with various stakeholders, including IT teams, management, and external security professionals. They communicate security risks, provide recommendations, and educate employees on best practices to maintain a secure computing environment.

Career Development and Education

To become a cybersecurity analyst, a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as information technology or computer science, is often required. Some organizations may prefer candidates with a master’s degree or professional certifications like Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

The demand for cybersecurity professionals, including analysts, is growing rapidly due to the increasing number of cyber threats. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, information security analysts, including cybersecurity analysts, can expect favorable job prospects and a median annual salary higher than the average for all occupations.

Cyber Security Analyst Job Description

The precise job description for a cybersecurity analyst can vary, but will often include duties such as: 

  • Identify and resolve security threats to safeguard information systems
  • Define access privileges to protect systems
  • Implement and maintain security controls
  • Perform penetration tests
  • Identify security breaches and follow incident response procedure
  • Assess current security risks and implement improvements
  • Conduct periodic audits to detect security violations and inefficiencies 
  • Prepare performance reports and communicate results to stakeholders 

Cybersecurity Analyst Qualifications

Cybersecurity analysts have to protect information systems from internal and external threats. While most cybersecurity analyst positions require a bachelor’s degree, it doesn’t necessarily need to be in cybersecurity. The field of cybersecurity relies heavily on certifications to verify one’s qualifications. If you obtain the appropriate certification for the job you’re seeking, you’ll have an advantage over the competition. 

Education

You can learn cybersecurity analyst skills through a traditional bachelor’s degree or by attending a bootcamp. A cybersecurity bootcamp can be completed in much less time than a college degree, and they focus exclusively on the skills you’ll need to pass your certification and be career-ready. A comprehensive bootcamp program will give you the opportunity to demonstrate that you have the practical, hands-on knowledge to get the job done.

Work Experience

If you don’t have any prior work experience, you’ll need to start as a junior-level cybersecurity analyst. As you gain experience, you can work as a mid-level or senior analyst, or make a lateral move to other areas of cybersecurity, such as security architecture or cybersecurity management. 

Get To Know Other Cybersecurity Students

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Cybersecurity Analyst Skills

Programming

Not all cybersecurity analyst roles require programming, especially at the junior level. However, understanding basic programming languages such as Python, JavaScript, and SQL can help advance your career. Part of identifying threats involves understanding them, so knowing how hackers attack code is a valuable skill. 

Monitor Attacks and Intrusion Detection

While most of your work will focus on preventing attacks, you have to know how to detect them and respond if they do occur. Part of your job will be to monitor network traffic, analyze event logs, and implement security information and event management (SIEM) solutions.

Data Security

In today’s digital-first environment, data is a significant part of the valuation of businesses, so data security is a high priority. Cybersecurity analysts protect data from unauthorized access and corruption by using tools such as data encryption, hashing, key management, and tokenization.

Endpoint Management

An endpoint is any device connected to a network. Cybersecurity analysts must evaluate, assign, and manage access rights at every endpoint. Effective endpoint management ensures that only approved and authenticated devices connect to the network, and that users follow established security protocols. 

Network Security

Network security encompasses all of the policies and procedures used to prevent and detect unauthorized access, misuse, or modification of an organization’s information system. 

What’s the Difference Between a Cybersecurity Analyst and an Information Security Analyst?

The terms “cybersecurity analyst” and “information security analyst” are often used interchangeably, but there are some subtle differences between the two roles.

Cybersecurity analysts focus on protecting computer networks and systems from cyberattacks. They use their knowledge of computer security to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities, develop and implement security policies and procedures, and investigate security incidents.

Information security analysts have a broader focus than cybersecurity analysts. They are responsible for protecting all of an organization’s information assets, including data, systems, and applications. They may also be responsible for physical security, such as access control and video surveillance.

Cybersecurity analysts are more technical than information security analysts. They have a deeper understanding of computer security and are more likely to be involved in the technical aspects of security, such as vulnerability assessment and penetration testing. Information security analysts, on the other hand, have a broader range of skills and responsibilities. They may be involved in the technical aspects of security, but they are also likely to be involved in non-technical aspects of security, such as policy development and risk management.

Cybersecurity Analyst Average Salary 

The average annual salary for a cybersecurity analyst is $77,144. You’ll earn less when you first enter the field and more as your career progresses. Here are the average salaries, based on experience: 

  • Entry-Level Cybersecurity Analyst: $64,732
  • Mid-Level Cybersecurity Analyst: $89,441
  • Senior-Level Cybersecurity Analyst: $101,901

Your salary will also vary depending on where you live. Some of the highest paying cities for cybersecurity analysts are: 

  • Colorado Springs, CO: $88,184
  • Washington, D.C.: $86,035
  • San Diego, CA: $82,783
  • New York, NY: $87,994
  • Arlington, VA: $90,034

Related: Cyber Security Analyst Salary Guide: Who Makes What?

Average Cybersecurity Analyst Career Path

The average cybersecurity analyst career path can be broken down into three main stages: entry-level, mid-level, and senior-level.

Entry-level: Entry-level cybersecurity analysts typically have a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, information technology, computer science, or a related field. They may also have some relevant work experience, such as an internship or entry-level IT job. Entry-level cybersecurity analysts are responsible for tasks such as:

  • Monitoring and analyzing network traffic for signs of malicious activity
  • Investigating security incidents
  • Responding to security breaches
  • Developing and implementing security policies and procedures
  • Educating users about security best practices

Mid-level: Mid-level cybersecurity analysts have several years of experience in the field. They may have a master’s degree in cybersecurity or a related field. Mid-level cybersecurity analysts are responsible for more complex tasks, such as:

  • Designing and implementing security solutions
  • Conducting security audits
  • Managing security projects
  • Leading security teams

Senior-level: Senior-level cybersecurity analysts have extensive experience in the field. They may have a Ph.D. in cybersecurity or a related field. Senior-level cybersecurity analysts are responsible for the overall security of an organization. They may have a role in developing and implementing security strategies, setting security budgets, and hiring and managing security staff.

Cybersecurity is a rapidly growing field, and there is a high demand for qualified cybersecurity professionals. Because cyber threats are growing constantly, your career path might change a lot over time.

Cybersecurity Tools To Be Familiar With

As a cybersecurity professional, you’ll need to use industry-standard tools. Some of the most common include: 

Firewalls

A firewall is a network security tool that filters traffic entering or leaving your network. You can configure a firewall to provide more or less protection based on your set rules. 

Antivirus Software

Antivirus software detects viruses, ransomware, worms, adware, spyware, and Trojan horses. This is a basic security measure that’s usually installed on all endpoints.

Encryption Tools

Cybersecurity analysts protect data by encrypting it. Encryption tools scramble the data before it’s transmitted, and tools on the other end unscramble it for authorized users.

Web Vulnerability Testing Tools

A web vulnerability scanner is an automated tool that cybersecurity analysts use to check for vulnerabilities in web applications. They test for common security issues such as: 

  • Cross-site scripting (XSS)
  • SQL injection
  • Cross-site request forgery (CSRF)

Managed Detection and Response Service

A Managed Detection and Response Service (MDR) is a platform for outsourcing cybersecurity services. MDR providers offer cloud-managed security via tools like: 

  • Advanced analytics
  • Threat detection
  • Human expertise 

Penetration Testing

Penetration tests are designed to simulate actual cyberattacks. These tests can be manual or automatic, and are used to expose any exploitable information system component, including:

  • Servers
  • Endpoints
  • Web applications
  • Wireless networks
  • Network devices
  • Mobile devices

If the tester can access the system, they will try to move further into the system, laterally and higher up, to achieve deeper access. A full report of all exposed vulnerabilities will be prepared so the organization can fix them. 

How To Become a Cybersecurity Analyst

There are several ways that you can become a cybersecurity analyst. The traditional path is a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or a related field. However, a cybersecurity bootcamp can train you to become an entry-level analyst in less time, and with significant cost savings. Regardless of the path you take, you’ll need to complete several steps to gain the requisite skills and knowledge. 

1. Build Your Foundation

Cybersecurity analysts have to understand how network and computer systems work, how they can be compromised, and the best way to protect them. The fundamentals of cybersecurity involve three concepts known as the CIA triad, which stands for: 

Confidentiality

Data should only be available to authorized users. Encryption is one tool used to ensure data confidentiality. Cybersecurity analysts have to consider who needs access to the data and how sensitive it is, then design procedures to provide the highest level of confidentiality for the most sensitive data.

Integrity

Protecting data integrity means ensuring it’s not compromised, either intentionally or unintentionally. Data can be compromised during transmission or storage, so cybersecurity analysts must protect it at all stages.

Availability

For data to be useful, it must be available when needed by authorized users. Making data available when necessary but protecting its integrity and confidentiality is at the heart of a cybersecurity analyst’s job. 

2. Grow Your Skills

After you learn the fundamentals of cybersecurity, continue to grow your skills by learning more about: 

Networking and System Administration

Learning the nuances of networking will give you an understanding of the technical aspects of data transmission so that you’ll know how to secure data. Learning system administration will provide you with the knowledge to configure and maintain computers.

Operating Systems and Virtual Machines

Different devices use different operating systems (OS), and you’ll need to be comfortable with them. Virtual machines are computer files that simulate an actual computer so you can test programs and deploy apps without exposing your data. 

Security Controls

Security controls are how cybersecurity analysts protect their organizations. The CIS 20 is a list of controls designed to maximize security. The top five are the most important and help protect against 85% of security threats. They include: 

  1. Inventory of authorized and unauthorized devices
  2. Inventory of authorized and unauthorized software
  3. Secure configurations for hardware and software on all devices and servers
  4. Continuous vulnerability testing and remediation
  5. Restricted use of administrative privileges 

3. Get Certified

The cybersecurity field offers many industry-standard certifications that are highly valued. Obtaining certifications is a great way to prove your skills and knowledge. Some of the most popular cybersecurity certifications include: 

CompTIA Security+

This entry-level certification validates the baseline skills necessary to perform core security functions. CompTIA Security+ is an excellent certification when starting your career. It provides hands-on skills aligned with the latest trends and techniques and covers: 

  • Attacks, threats, and vulnerabilities
  • Architecture and design
  • Operations and incident response
  • Governance, risk, and compliance
  • Implementation

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

CISA certification is for entry-level and mid-level professionals. It validates your ability to apply a risk-based approach to planning, implementing, and reporting on audit engagements. 

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

The CEH certification shows that you know how to use the latest tools and techniques used by bad actors. You’ll be qualified to use these techniques to assess the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of security systems. You’ll be capable of working as a penetration tester with this entry-level certification.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

The CISSP certification is only available to cybersecurity professionals with at least five years of experience. This advanced certification proves that you can effectively design, implement and manage an effective cybersecurity program. CISSP certification is used in the following roles: 

  • Chief information security officer
  • Security systems administrator 
  • Information assurance analyst
  • IT security engineer
  • Principal cybersecurity manager

4. Apply for Entry-Level or Complementary Jobs

Once you’ve learned the fundamentals, expanded your skills, and passed the relevant certifications, you can start applying for entry-level jobs. If you have significant qualifications in another industry, you may be able to apply for a complimentary job and make a lateral move into a cybersecurity analyst role. Some entry-level cybersecurity roles include: 

  • Security analyst
  • Security specialist
  • Incident responder
  • Security auditor
  • Forensic expert
  • Source code auditor
  • Penetration tester

Is Cybersecurity Analyst a Good Career Choice?

Becoming a cybersecurity analyst can be a very fulfilling and financially rewarding career choice. If you decide to become a cybersecurity analyst, you can look forward to:

  • High demand and job security: The demand for cybersecurity analysts is very high, and is expected to continue to grow in the coming years. This means that there are many job opportunities available, and you are likely to be able to find a good job with a good salary.
  • Challenging and rewarding work: Cybersecurity analysts work on complex and challenging problems, and they have the opportunity to make a real difference in the world by helping to protect organizations from cyberattacks. This can be very rewarding work, and it can give you a sense of satisfaction knowing that you are making a positive impact.
  • Variety of career options: There are many different types of cybersecurity jobs available, so you can find a job that fits your interests and skills. You can work in a variety of industries, such as government, healthcare, finance, and technology.
  • Good salary and benefits: Cybersecurity analysts typically earn a good salary and have access to good benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off.

FAQs About Cybersecurity Analysts

Can a College Freshman Become a Cybersecurity Analyst?

Most cybersecurity analyst jobs require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience, so it would be hard for a college freshman to obtain the necessary qualifications. If you’re in college and interested in becoming a cybersecurity analyst, consider majoring in cybersecurity or a related field. 

Do You Need a Degree To Become a Cybersecurity Analyst?

You don’t need a degree to become a cybersecurity analyst, but it does make it easier. However, you can also learn the fundamentals of cybersecurity through an online course or bootcamp. 

Do Cybersecurity Analysts Code?

Most entry-level cybersecurity analysts don’t need to know how to code. As you obtain more senior-level positions, you may need to learn. No matter where you are in your career as a cybersecurity analyst, knowing how to code will help you understand how hackers exploit vulnerabilities.

Are Certifications Required To Become a Cybersecurity Analyst?

Certifications aren’t required to become a cybersecurity analyst. However, most jobs want a certification, degree, or significant experience. Certification is the best way to prove you have the knowledge and skills to work as a cybersecurity analyst.

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About Olayemi Agbeleye

Olayemi is a risk and cybersecurity professional with over 11 years of experience in top-tier ISO 270001 certified organizations managing security operation centers, skilled in security advisory and architecture, third-party cyber risk assessment, audit and compliance, vulnerability management, cloud security, network security, security testing, and control effectiveness testing.